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Toyota’s 2021 Sienna hybrid proves minivans can be enjoyable, not just practical

There comes a time in your life when minivans just make sense. Usually, that is once you begin to be taught concerning the nuances of automotive seats, strollers and the entire different gear children require. Then come the soccer matches and cacouphonous carpools. I will not waste time arguing for the practicality of minivans, as a result of regardless of the way you body it, they’re going to at all times be higher for a typical household than an SUV or crossover. They have gotten extra room for passengers and cargo alike, and so they’re just simpler to entry when you want to safe a screaming toddler.

Gallery: Toyota Sienna 2021 | 22 Photos

Gallery: Toyota Sienna 2021 | 22 Photos

No matter how a lot sense they make, although, minivans nonetheless undergo from being seen as boring autos for soccer mothers and dads who’ve just given up. That’s an thought Toyota is making an attempt to obliterate with its 2021 Sienna. Its sporty styling evokes Toyota’s extra adventurous SUVs, and it has the entire newest infotainment facilities to please each dad and mom and children. Most importantly, although, each 2021 Sienna is a hybrid providing no less than 35 MPG of mixed mileage (the entry-level LE trim is rated at 36 MPG). And with a beginning worth of $34,460, it is round $4,000 lower than Toyota’s 2021 Hybrid Highlander, which affords the identical mileage however with extra restricted seating area.

By cramming a lot tech into the 2021 Sienna at a low worth, Toyota is clearly gunning for Honda’s ever-popular Odyssey, and Chrysler’s Pacifica plug-in hybrid. The Pacifica affords as much as 32 miles of electric-only vary, making it excellent for households who need not journey far fairly often. But it additionally prices much more than the Sienna, beginning at $40,620 for the bottom mannequin. Additionally, Toyota managed to suit its AWD hybrid system into the Sienna, whereas the Pacifica and Odyssey solely affords front-wheel drive. (Another main knock in opposition to Honda: there’s nonetheless no hybrid Odyssey!)

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Based on its sheer type alone, the 2021 Sienna clearly has much more happening than the Pacifica. (There’s a motive Toyota has jokingly labeled it a “swagger wagon.”) The sharp strains and enormous grille alongside its entrance provides off an aggressive vibe, as if it is extra wanting to hit the racetrack than putter over to a soccer match. And that type continues alongside the aspect panels, making the Sienna look like it is dashing down the freeway even when it is standing nonetheless. Along the rear, it is distinctly truck-like, with a low loading flooring that makes it simple to raise up strollers and pets.

The inside is just as spectacular, no less than within the Limited mannequin (beginning at $50,085) that I examined for per week. A regular 9-inch touchscreen is the centerpiece of the infotainment system, and it comes geared up with help for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa. The front-, second- and third-row seats are lined in an expensive leather-based trim. That final row of seats can be laid flat with the tug of a string. And, properly, there’s just a lot extra room than my 2017 RAV4 Hybrid. I knew that getting into, after all, nevertheless it’s one other factor to expertise the huge dimension distinction between a minivan and a crossover SUV in individual.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Installing my toddler’s automotive seat was a lot simpler with the Sienna, due to its computerized sliding doorways. There’s extra room to maneuver — a should once you’re lifting a 30-pound machine — and I appreciated truly with the ability to sit down within the different second-row chair to safe the seat belt. My daughter instantly took to the Sienna as properly. As quickly as I plopped her into the automotive seat, she seemed round wide-eyed and mentioned “Wow, I like this car!” (And this was after test-driving a Tesla Model Y, which elicited a largely ho-hum response.)

It might just be that the 2021 Sienna is on many dad and mom’ want lists proper now, however I used to be stunned just how many individuals approached me to ask questions on it. Five minutes into my first drive, our native Dunkin’ Donuts supervisor instantly acknowledged it and gave me his Indian Dad Seal of Approval. Several dad and mom at native parks had been impressed that it did not seem like a minivan in any respect (if you happen to squint, it just appears like a barely longer Highlander).

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

While I anticipated the Sienna to drive a bit like a ship, I used to be stunned to search out it was fairly easy and responsive. It’s no sports activities automotive, nevertheless it dealt with Georgia’s twisty again roads even higher than my RAV4 (I’ll chalk that as much as the decrease heart of gravity). And regardless of dropping the V6 engine from earlier fashions, the Hybrid Sienna nonetheless has loads of kick to it. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and twin electrical motors supply a formidable 245hp mixed, so it by no means felt underpowered as I handed sluggish vans on the freeway. We averaged round 33MPG all through the week, much more than I usually see on our considerably smaller RAV4. The hybrid drivetrain additionally provides the Sienna an additional increase when shifting from a full cease, making it excellent for stop-and-go visitors.

I did not have any adventurous journeys deliberate for testing out the Sienna’s AWD, however I appreciated having further traction whereas driving by way of torrential summer season storms. That was significantly useful once we had been driving down steep mountain-side highways amid the rain. A front-wheel drive automotive most likely would have been high quality, however as an anxious dad, I’d at all times slightly have the peace of thoughts.